Saturday, October 18, 2008

The name game

This post got me thinking, and then a little angry, and then back to just plain old curious.

Me and Chou Chou don't share a last name. Neither do my husband and I. And we like it that way. Within my ladies and babies group, nearly half the children have their momma's names, not daddy's, and the daddies are the ones who wanted it that way (except in one case where it was decided by the baby's gender (girl = mum's name, boy = dad's name). For the record, we're all married and some changed names but most did not. Outside of my circle of friends and family back home, most women I know kept their name or hyphenated it, and babies are being given mum's name as a middle name, or mum's name, or both. Personally, I love the diversity of it. I love hearing the reasons for either or. I love seeing a little boy with his mum's name because the baby's dad had such respect and reverence for his wife's family. That's powerful, wonderful stuff.

And then those same wonderful people may be stopped at our border and questioned as to their authority in traveling with the child? That gets me angry. Then logic takes over, and I recognize that better safe than sorry fits here, and then I relax, just a little.

I think back to the agony over naming our Chou Chou - all before she was born, of course. The moment I saw her - her perfect face, the mop of curls, the sweet blond wisps of hair tucked behind her ear - I knew her name (none of the ones we had picked out, by the way). But before she arrived we spent hours discussing names, the importance of them, the meanings, the sound, the cadence, the significance, the spelling and, yes, the possible pitfalls of her carrying a name different than her mother's.

The travel question did come up. As did schooling and child care. Would it be an issue if I went to fetch her and our names were different? Would it bother her? Would she care? Ultimately, we decided it was as important to me to keep my name as it was that our daughter have both our names. Not wanting to saddle her with a huge name, we gave her only one as her last, and mine as a middle name (Chou Chou Caddywumpus really is enough, don't you think?). And before someone bites my head off, I get all the reasons for having a "family" name - but I don't think simply sharing a last name makes you a family, or more of a family, than those who don't.

I then go back to getting more than a little annoyed over the border guard's response (especially when the were coming BACK to Canada. Good grief, people). It's not like parents take this naming responsibility lightly. And I get more than a little pissed that, indirectly, it's a dig at a woman keeping her name. A name she likely kept for some very good reasons. I also get more than a little annoyed that in this age of blended families, in a country where all sorts of cultures collide, some of which have a tradition where women ALWAYS keep their name (in Vietnamese culture, for one, for those of you who need examples for credibility of argument), that we still get flak for doing so.

Lesson learned, though. Chou Chou and I will travel with appropriate documents, and just might end up changing names...but only so she carries mine as a last name, not the other way around.

Caddywumpus Comment Generator: What did you do? Would you do it differently if you could do it all over again?


Jennifer P said...

Well, as you know I kept mine. Didn't know that I was going to until the day before my wedding (and the husband supported me the whole way). And no, I'd never change a thing.

Sarah said...

Thanks for sending me your new blog link :)
I kept my last name, and my husband was 100% supportive of my choice (funnily, I always thought I'd jump at the chance to dump my boring last name - especially because the hubster has a very nice last name - but when push came to shove I just couldn't give up the identity I'd had for 27 years)... and our son (who is due to be born in January) will have hubby's last name, and my mom's maiden name as a middle name. Kind of random, but works for us :)

Anonymous said...

Chou Chou Caddymullalla doesn't work? LOL. When I got married, it was just the way it went. Today, I know I would have liked to keep my maiden name as my middle name. But added to all the names I already have, my driver's licence would not fit in my wallet..But it would have been cool and I know my parents would have loved it...That aside,we've heard about all the children that go missing each year via parental abductions, it is really sad but the borders are actually part of the "Child Find" project. And amazingly enough, they do do their job to the best of their abilities.
So yes, just make sure you always have a copy of the Birth certificate...only way.

Karli said...

I enjoyed this post dear friend! As someone who had two names hyphenated her whole life, while her parents and brother did not, I sympathize with anyone who has problems with surnames. A teacher once told me in elementary that because of my two last names, when I was an adult and trying to make something of my life, people would assume I was from a broken home, which definitely was not the case. In time, I learned that many people had names like mine and now I know there is only one person in the whole world with my last name...ME! And I love it! However, I did get married and as you know, the husband would have been disheartened if I did not take his last name. Tradition and Menno-ism caused this! So now, legally, I have one surname, his! Not a fan, let me tell you, as it is the most common surname in Southern Manitoba. But, one day, if we have Chou Chou's of our own, we will all share the same name. But, I have a trick under my sleeve, as a writer, I can go back and be Farmer Flinta again any time I want!

My friend in Quebec said most women keep their last names there as well. As do those from Spain and Latin America, although most of them keep adding names making it so convoluted!